4 April 2014

How Google lost the plot and got me using Bing (rant post)

Until recently I've been quite a big fan of Google. It's true over the years they've occasionally over-stepped their mark and needed reminding that they are a service, not the internet police. I have often been amused at how a U.S. marketeer frequently ranks higher than me in their searches for a specific term where I have both the .com and .co.uk domains registered. I also remember their move to rapidly demote pages where ink & paper colours were the same to hide things (like hidden comments which could be used to recognise direct copying of parts of your website). I have often praised their services and products. I use their calendars and we have multiple Nexus tablets in our household. You might then wonder what they have done to make me consider turning my back on their wonderous acheivements; and why now?

It all stems from my new phone (Moto G for anyone interested). I have ditched my old phone primarily because as part of the networks deal to get free texts with my top-ups, I have to receive a certain amount of 'offers'. These started out as irregular SMS messages every month or so but just recently they have started to become annoyingly frequent. Not only that, my old phone has been getting a lot more cold calls than normal. It's not even a smart phone and I'm very careful about who I give the number to as I consider it my personal hotline for my nearest and dearest to contact me in case of dire emergency. Such is my insistance on this that any web-site requesting my personal mobile number will invariably be given my old number or a completely made up one instead. In short, this one is for me, for my family and is for emergencies rather than for chancers trying to sell me junk.

Now while I may be willing to install anything which looks like it might be even remotely useful on my Nexus-7, this experience with Orange has left me unwilling to take such chances on my Moto-G. The first person who manages to cold-call me on my Nexus-7 would be worthy of a few minutes of minimal attention while I figure out how they managed to do it. On my mobile however, I take a lot more notice of what permissions apps are requesting. So much so that before installing anything from the Play store, I have been trying to find something that gives me control. Along the journey I came across references to Whispercore and Snoopwall, both of which had some negative feedback. I then found App-Ops starter only to discover that the hidden permissions pages it allows you to access have since been removed (by Google).

This seems very unprogressive and appears to have removed my choice of whether or not to allow apps to transmit my personal details to god-knows-where. I may no longer have the choice to set these myself, but I do have a choice over what browser and search engine I use. I am therefore going to register my protest by making this my last blog post, ditching Chrome and no longer using the mighty G for web-searches. My new smart phone will have no apps other than those which were pre-installed and all location reporting will be turned off (which probably won't be enough these days). Hopefully Google will see the error of their ways and in time restore the privacy options. If not, my next phone may be a Windows phone. I don't consider Microsoft to be any better in the area of privacy but usually there are third-party apps to get the job done. If Google don't restore the privacy options then the next step will be to find a way to filter-out adsense adverts from web-pages (and I better start looking for a calendar replacement as well).

As this post is essentially mud-slinging at a large powerful corporate the usual disclaimers apply - "all oppinions are my own and blah-blah-blah etc".